On Israel and Iran
Sir: Your leading article (‘Israel Alone’, 29 September) implies that there is consensus among Israelis that Iran must be attacked. This is far from the case. There is vigorous internal debate, with opposition MPs, a judge, and senior military and intelligence officials publicly denouncing Netanyahu’s calls for a strike.
Sir: Your leading article correctly states that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a destabilising and undesirable entity.
The elephant in the room that your item ignores is that there is a nation in the region, Israel, which decades ago clandestinely developed and tested such a weapon and has subsequently manufactured a substantial nuclear device stockpile. If Israel were obliged to decommission its nuclear arsenal, there would be universally more enthusiastic support for ensuring that Iran will never be able to come close to nuclear weapons capability.
Sir: I am sorry Salman Rushdie has overlooked my part in his initial escape from the fatwa that Valentine’s Day in the Greek orthodox cathedral in Moscow Road in 1989; and that, in his review of Joseph Anton, Rod Liddle (Books, 29 September) says it was Paul Theroux who tapped Salman on the elbow.
As a young reporter on the Evening Standard’s Londoner’s Diary, I was despatched initially to cover the funeral of Bruce Chatwin. Spotting the hordes of reporters at the front of the church, I positioned myself behind Rushdie and, halfway through the service, told him I had found a side door, positioned his driver, and we made our escape.
Alone together in some dank cloister before he got into the car, I asked if he would share a few words with our readers? ‘No,’ he replied softly, which I thought was a bit mean.
Rory Knight Bruce
The shape vs the form
Sir: Andrew Lambirth is right to praise the Royal Academy’s current exhibition of sculpture (Arts, 29 September), but wrong to describe bronze as an ‘art form’ or even as a ‘medium’. Apart from some very tiny works directly wrought in that material, every object in that display was originally modelled in a different substance, either bronze, staff or wax. These are the media in which the essence of any sculpture is attained (that is to say, its shape). To divert attention from form and meaning by appealing to the substance in which the unfortunate shape finds itself forced to reside at the end of a desperate technical struggle is to be inexcusably materialistic. It is as if one were to define Andrew Lambirth not as a sentient being, but as an assembly of particles, billions of sodium pumps, various juices, gristle and some hair. There is a long history of fraudulence in sculpture, and material fetishism lies at the heart of it.
Alexander Stoddart, HM Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland
University of the West of Scotland, Paisley
Sir: I was pleased to see Peter Jones’s explanation of the meaning of ‘plebs’ (Ancient and modern, 29 September). However, I am surprised that he did not mention the ‘equites’ or knights (originally the Roman cavalry), who were a small class below the patricians but above the plebs. I believe that Cicero’s family were members of the knights.
Sir: As a sufferer from neuroendocrine tumours (related to the cancer which killed Steve Jobs), I cannot endorse too highly Alexander Masters’s attempts (Diary, 29 September) to get funding for human trials of the very promising curative approach of using selective metastatic tumour-targeting viruses. Apart from the promising work in Uppsala, so far confined to laboratory trials on mice, there has for example been a successful North American Phase 1 trial on humans using a cancer-killing pox virus. This whole approach is now being held up for lack of funding, whilst NET patients are left facing death and languishing with excruciating pain and a host of debilitating effects due to overproduction of hormones by the neuroendocrine tumours.
A relatively small sum of the order of £10 million would enable Phase 1 and 2 trials on humans to be carried forward quickly in a number of centres. With its link, through Steve Jobs, to the IT industry, surely such a small sum could quickly be forthcoming from Apple Inc., or the Gates Foundation Funding for Neglected Diseases.
Professor N.H. Gale
Nuffield College, Oxford
A grown-up speaker
Sir: Spot on, Ysenda Maxtone Graham! (Night thoughts, 29 September) Now that the BBC has banished the web forum for Radio 3, there is no way to let presenters like the wonderful Susan Sharpe know how much their voices are appreciated. It perplexes me that a programme whose listeners are probably the wrong side of 40 are assumed to like those perky little-girl voices, which Susan Sharpe has not got, thank heaven. She speaks as grown-up to grown-up — what bliss.
Sir: Taki blundered slightly in his last High Life column. As a yachtsman, he should know that a knot equals one nautical mile per hour. So 500 knots per hour is nonsense. Too many vodkas on ice, maybe?
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 6 October 2012